10 February, 2009

Thoughts on the Present Need for Revival

When we read of the work of God in the history of the church, there are seasons that strike us as almost transcendent. As such seasons of grace involved humans this side of Christ's return, they were certainly not without their errors, sins and faults. However, when we read of the Reformation, the revivals of Colonial America, the Evangelical Awakening in Britain and so on, we are struck with the reality of holiness and warmth. If you have never done so read Andrew Bonar's Robert Murray M'Cheyne to see what I mean.

Obviously we do not desire to see every aspect of the Reformation reproduced today. In fact, such is impossible - too much has changed in our political, economical and ecclesiastical structures. We no longer have one visible face of the church. Think of the countless numbers of denominations that have erupted since Luther was used of God to call the church back to the truth of Scripture. We no longer have governments interested in defending true religion. Could Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucer, Martyr and others have accomplished their work without the protection of their civil magistrates? Surely God is able to do what he desires without the help of any single man. However, when we survey the Reformation it becomes quite evident that the Lord providentially used city and national governors to aid his work of revival. These are just some of the real differences that would make revival today appear different than the 1500's, at least in circumstantial realities.

However, that we do not desire to see every aspect reproduced today - either of the Reformation or any other revival in history - does not change the fact that we possess a strong desire to see the essence of such a revival reproduced in our midst. Were there extravagances during the New England Awakening of Edwards' time? Most certainly! Were there things we wish Whitfield and the Tennets had done differently? I surely think so. But, do we not desire to see the authentic and vibrant Christianity, so obvious in their lives, return with power today?

Undoubtedly there are cries of simpleton, historical snob, fundamentalist, etc. when such thoughts are mentioned. However take a moment to think on the following questions. One thing I ask is that you seriously consider these questions with reference to your own life and then apply them to the church at large. Moreover I list these not to bring us down into a paralyzed state of soul. Rather, I ask them that the Lord might humble us from our great and unfounded pride, that in the end Jesus Christ alone would be exalted. And then, with Christ alone lifted up, may he adorn the church with her much needed grace.

1) Where is the weeping over sin today? When was the last time you shed tears for sin? Perhaps you are of such a constitution that you don't cry easily. Fine. When was the last time you paused and found sincere remorse over the sins you have committed - remorse that issued forth in true repentance?

2) Where are true hunger, delight and absolute desire for Jesus Christ to be found? Where is there weeping for Christ today?

3) When was the last time a Reformed church saw tears in the pulpit for the lost?

4) When was the last time a Reformed church saw tears in the pulpit weeping for the redemption in Christ Jesus?

5) Where do we find the Sabbath called "a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable"? Where is the communion of Christian fellowship prized over and above family, civil and recreational events?

6) Where are there believers gathered in a way similar to that heavenly vision of John: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."? Where are there assemblies gathered, fairly representing the demographics of the surrounding area? Where are the assemblies gathered together in purity, peace and victory, worshipping God through Christ with vigor, joy and grace?

If you are at all as I, you begin to wonder at the "host" of wisdom we have today. How long must we pride ourselves in the so-called cultural mandate, while a true sense of sin and grace fades away? Was Christ's coming and redemption really so I can make a better, faster, cooler and more efficient car? Was this the preaching of Christ? of the apostles? of Augustine? of Anselm? of Bernard? of Luther, Calvin, Knox, Melville, Rutherford, Gillespie, Edwards, M'Cheyne, etc.?

No doubt, the Lord desires us to delight in his creation, to dwell upon things that are noble, pure, beautiful and so on. He desires us to do all of our work heartily unto him. If a lawyer, one ought to practice law in a Christian manner. If a doctor, one ought to practice medicine in a way that honor's Christ. But when Edwards finished preaching his sermons, was the congregation struck with a new found desire to manufacture goods more beautifully? Perhaps that is too easy for some to reject, because they find Edwards to be too "inward, pietistic and idealistic." Very well, I will ask the same question upon better received ground. Was the preaching of Pentecost attended with people pricked in their consciences because they had been neglecting to live in their surrounding culture well? When the early church gathered in Acts, was it to walk through the streets and admire the sculptures surrounding their cities? Surely, we ought to admire beauty in such works of art. We ought to reach out to our culture. However, is the newfound emphasis, so prevalent in many churches today, really the same emphasis of the Scriptures? If so, where are the same effects?

What is our need? Simply put, it is for God to stoop down once again in abounding grace. It is for the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us all. No, Pentecost cannot be repeated. That was a special historical event testifying to the victory of Christ Jesus. However, do we not need something similar?

We need the same Spirit to work mightily in our lives. We need grace. Certainly grace for an individual, but I mean more than that. We need grace that newly humbles the church worldwide. Grace that awakens the many deceived souls sitting in our Protestant and Evangelical churches. We need grace that causes ministers of the gospel to delight in Christ above all else. We need grace that makes sin a word that strikes shame into our hearts. We need grace that makes salvation a word that makes us pause because of the immense joy that overcomes our souls. We need grace that makes Jesus a name that is desired and honored and cherished. We need grace that causes us to adorn the gospel with Spiritual fruit. You need such grace. I need such grace. Let us then pray for such grace, seek such grace and delight in such grace through Jesus Christ.


PCA Historical Center said...

I would urge the reading of Wm. Jenkyns sermon, "How Ought We to Mourn the Sins of the Places Where We Live?", which is included among the Morning Exercises at Cripplegate. The CTS Library has that set. I think it's in vol. 3.

PCA Historical Center said...

And there is this, from the Preface to Bunyan's last work, The Acceptable Sacrifice:
"The greater the party is of mourning Christians, the more hope we have that the storm impending may be blown over, and the blessings enjoyed may yet be continued. As long as there is a sighing party, we may hope to be yet preserved; at least such will have the mark set upon themselves which shall distinguish them from those whom the slaughtermen shall receive commission to destroy, Ezek. ix. 4."

Jonathan said...

What an encouraging word from Bunyan; thank you for sharing it! May we all grow to be such Christians.

If you gain the time, would you be able to post the passage and doctrine from Jenkyns' sermon? It will be sometime before I can stop by the library to read through it.

Jeremy said...

WE LIVE?" http://www.pcahistory.org/HCLibrary/sermons/Jenkin-Bewail.pdf